Saturday, 9 April 2016
374 University Challenge
First viewed : Uncertain
I've absolutely no idea when I first caught this hardy perennial but it was probably towards the end of the seventies when I started being able to answer a handful of the questions. Some time in the seventies it featured my former work colleague Steve Taylor as a contestant for Warwick University.
Television's most cerebral quiz is another monument to the glory of Granada's Golden Age. Cecil Bernstein, brother of Granada's founder Sidney produced it after seeing the show College Bowl in America. It started in 1962 with the young theatre critic and historian Bamber Gascoigne in the presenter's chair. Despite its highbrow content, the show was an immediate success, much of it due to the appealing personality of its diligent host.
After the sixties , it did suffer through the other networks treating it as a space filler without a regular spot in the schedule . It eventually fell victim to cultural dumbing-down in 1987. However there was always a chorus of discontent about the decision and in 1994 the BBC agreed with Granada to bring it back on BBC2.
By that time Gascoigne had become involved in his great project to create the definitive encyclopaedia of world history and turned down the opportunity to resurrect his TV career.
Instead the job went to a very different personality in Jeremy Paxman who has presented it ever since. Gascoigne's History World website was launched in 2001 and has always been well regarded but that was the same year Wikipedia launched and Gascoigne's venture has always lived in its shadow.
I've never watched it on a regular basis with either presenter but still catch it occasionally.